The benefits of living in the HomeSmart Home

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While it is relatively easy to measure how much energy or water is used, and what the temperature is, we were also interested in how the family found living in the HomeSmart Home®.

Our researchers interviewed the homeowners to get their feedback on how the house was performing.  It has helped us identify problems and make suggestions to the New Zealand Housing Foundation for their future home designs.

Best of all, the family’s experience demonstrates the greater health, social and family benefits of living in a sustainable home.

Cost of living

Being energy and water efficient has really benefited this family which loved having a house that is cheap to run.  They noticed big differences on their power bills compared to previous homes and credited the PV system and heat pump hot water system.

The cost savings were significant - compared to an average house in Auckland, the savings could be as much as $1625 per year from the energy efficiency and generation measures.


Health benefits

While the homeowners’ last house was described as “a fridge box”, the HomeSmart Home was warm and cosy.  So cosy in fact that they needed very little extra heating.

As a result, the family has enjoyed better health.  Previously, the boys had often been sick and snuffly, and asthma inhalers were used regularly.  Now, the inhaler wasn’t needed at all and no-one had been sick since arriving in the house.  The father commented that “now we know the baby is teething when he is out of sorts” (instead of being cold or sick).

Changing their lives

Living in the HomeSmart Home has been good for this family.  Its location, close to extended family and in a strong local community, has given them a sense of security and day-to-day support.

The experience of living in the HomeSmart Home has had a lasting impact on the family’s behaviour and awareness.  Living in an energy efficient home made conserving energy normal, and having water and energy meters in the home helped both adults and teenagers to watch - and manage - their consumption. 

After receiving an early high water bill (from watering the just-sown lawn), the family made an effort to keep their water use down.  Consequently, there had been a gradual reduction in water use over time. 

The family’s general awareness of the environment has increased, including power usage and greenhouse gases.  One of the adults noted that, until a few years ago, they had not cared about “what we eat or consume, but lately I have been more focused on what we consume.  Now I am keen to grow our food and control what we eat, and to see the impact on mine and my family’s health”.

The family plans to grow some of their own food in the garden, using the rainwater tank water to water the garden when it has enough water in it,  and they compost their kitchen waste. 

Being in the house has influenced the family; one of the adults reported that before arriving he was aware that they needed to reduce their carbon footprint and look at what they ate and so on, but  “coming here has helped us to do it - by having a ‘green house’ I can make a difference”.  He noted that “before it was just an idea to compost etc, but this made it a reality, it was all done for me and made it easier to do”.

Their next home

The HomeSmart Home has changed what the family would look for in future houses.  They would look for a home which is warm and well insulated, with double glazing, good ventilation, open plan layout and space, plus with a split system, efficient model, hot water heat pump.  In terms of any future neighbourhood, the family would look to live close to extended family and in strong local community.

If the family purchased the HomeSmart Home under the New Zealand Housing Foundation’s scheme, they would look at the following improvements:

  • moving the stove to the outside kitchen wall
  • making the living areas open plan
  • connecting the pathways outside of the house (currently there are unconnected concrete slabs in the back yard)
  • sitting the rainwater tank on a higher base (the outlet is currently too close to the ground and more pressure is gained if it sits higher)
  • removing carpet from the dining room (there is carpet throughout the house except for vinyl in wet areas)
  • putting a splashback around the oven’s stove top (these little features actually have quite a big impact over time on the house)
  • moving the toilet from being adjacent to the lounge (this took up valuable lounge space and raised privacy issues).


  • 29-Sep-2011 (Report HN2800/7)

    New Zealand Housing Foundation HomeSmart Home: Evaluation of Performance and Occupancy (PDF 600KB)

    Lois Easton

    The New Zealand Foundation HomeSmart Home was designed in partnership with Beacon to meet the HSS High Standard of Sustainability®.  This report brings together the findings from performance monitoring and occupant experience interview.  It compares the performance and family experience of this home to the Rotorua and Waitakere NOW Homes® and to two homes monitored over a similar period built by Stonewood Homes in Rangiora. 


The family used a Centameter to track and manage their energy use